DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (June 15, 2006) -- Gary Lewis' 2006 NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Northwest Series season did not start in April like every other team's. His started last November at the NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown. Most ...
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (June 15, 2006) -- Gary Lewis' 2006 NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Northwest Series season did not start in April like every other team's. His started last November at the NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown.
Most Northwest Series drivers would call five top-five and six top-10 finishes and a ninth-place ranking in the final points a solid season, but for Lewis in 2005 it was a disappointment. Last season, he didn't win a Bud Pole Award and for the first time since 1995 he did not win a race. Those are two hallmarks of Lewis' career, now in his 14th season in the series. He ranks third all-time in Bud Poles and wins behind Garrett Evans and Ron Eaton on both lists.
What he did do was severely damage his primary car at Evergreen Speedway in July and lose his primary motor at Magic Valley Speedway in August. He was able to snag a top-10 finish in points with a back-up car and motor and earn his third berth in the NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown.
He showed up at Irwindale (Calif.) Speedway with the mechanical problems behind him and ready to close out a season to forget in style. He did just that by finishing in fifth and set the tone for 2006 in the process.
So far this season, he has a win and a second-place finish to go along with a Bud Pole Award. He also has the series points lead heading into this weekend's Yakima 125 at Yakima (Wash.) Speedway.
THE TRACK: Yakima Speedway is scheduled to host its 40th Northwest Series event this Saturday. Bill Lawrence holds the one-lap qualifying record for the 1/2-mile oval. He posted a time of 18.286 seconds (98.436 mph) on April 19, 1995. Four-time series champion Garrett Evans has won the most events of any driver with six. Jeff Jefferson and Ron Eaton, each three-time series champions, hold the career mark for Bud Poles with six each. Six former winners at Yakima Speedway (John Bender, Eaton, Evans, Pete Harding, Lewis and Brandon Riehl) are pre-entered for this event.
JEFFERSONLESS?: There was a chance that a Northwest Series race at Yakima Speedway could be held without a Jefferson in the field, something that has not occurred in many years. However, Jason Jefferson once again will climb behind the wheel of the No. 27 S&P Construction/Frank & Son Auto Body Chevrolet. Jefferson, the 2003 Northwest Series Sunoco Rookie of the Year, filled in for Jeff Bailey last weekend at Magic Valley Speedway and is slated to do the same this weekend. Bailey is taking some time with his family which includes a newborn.
LAP COUNTER: Despite being just two races into the season and putting just 275 laps in the books, the number of drivers completing every lap already has been whittled to six -- Jeff Barkshire, Travis Bennett, Wilbur Bruce, John Dillon, Lewis and Riehl. Lewis has led the most laps with 125 followed by Barshire's 117 and Riehl's 33.
THE ROOKIES: The battle for the Northwest Series' Sunoco Rookie-of-the-Year award will be one to watch all season long. A large rookie class that has 12 drivers vying for the title will undoubtedly go down to the wire. Currently, Jay Sauls leads the way with 17 points followed by former Yakima Speedway Late Model champion Mike Longton and another Yakima product B.J. Tidrick with 14 each. Three other youngsters, Jason Fraser, Shane Harding and Troy Tramell, are right there, each with 10 points. This year, the Sunoco Rookie of the Year will be awarded to the rookie driver with the highest finish in 75% of the events respective to the other rookie contenders.
ALUMNI REPORT: Former Northwest Series competitor Greg Biffle continues his march to the top 10 in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series point standings after a slow start. Biffle currently sits in 12th place just 27 points out of the 10th slot. Biffle also is currently fifth in the NASCAR Busch Series standings. Mike Bliss, another Northwest Series product holds seventh place in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series at the moment.
Ticket information for the Yakima 125 can be obtained by calling Yakima Speedway at (509) 248-0647 or by logging onto www.yakimaspeedway.us.